Source: The Wall Street Journal
by Lindsay Gellman
Sep 30, 2015
The number of applicants seeking admission to M.B.A. programs grew at 57% of schools world-wide offering full-time, two-year programs, according to the latest data from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which tracks business-school data. And, after years in which international students drove growth, 59% of U.S. full-time, two-year programs said they drew more applications from U.S. students, according to GMAC.
The M.B.A. market tends to be countercyclical, admissions consultants and school officials say, so a strong hiring market like the current one usually means that young professionals prefer to stay in the workforce rather than leave for a business degree.
With just over half of M.B.A. programs reporting increases, “we are in a more normal period for demand for the M.B.A.” than in the years immediately following the 2008 financial crisis, when applications increased, said Alex Chisholm, a research director at GMAC.
The rise in b-school applicants might be a signal that students who graduated from college at the beginning of the crisis in 2008 are now competitive candidates for the M.B.A., and are looking to the degree as a form of financial and psychological insurance, said Jeremy Shinewald, president and founder of mbaMission, an admission consulting firm.
After working in New York for several years after college, first at a “bulge-bracket” investment bank in strategy, and then at a communications firm, Margaret Rohrmann decided to enroll in Columbia Business School’s M.B.A. program this fall. The 30-year-old said the degree will help strengthen her technical skills in finance with an eye toward pursuing business roles in media or retail in Dubai after graduation. Without the degree, she said, the career pivot “would be a much harder sell.”
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Yale University’s School of Management and Harvard Business School were among the M.B.A. programs drawing more applications for classes entering in the fall of 2015 than a year earlier, according to the schools. Wharton’s M.B.A. applications rose 7.8%, Booth’s 15.6%, Yale’s 25.1% and Harvard’s 1.5%, according to the schools.
Some elite schools lost ground with applicants. Applications fell 5% at New York University’s Stern School of Business and 8.1% at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, those schools reported.
Dawna Levenson, Sloan’s director of admissions, said the school has restructured its M.B.A. application for this year to eliminate “pain points” would-be students found cumbersome. The school eliminated one of two required essays from the initial application, though a second essay is still required for those invited to interview, she said. And the school, which has historically had only two admissions rounds, has added a third round with a spring deadline, she said.
The numbers also show more applicants testing the waters with the Graduate Record Examinations, the general graduate-school admissions exam, which schools have begun accepting in addition to or in lieu of the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT.
In recent years schools have started to accept the GRE results as they try to open up the M.B.A. to a broader group of potential students. Yale, Sloan, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business said they received more GRE score submissions this year than last.
Business schools have worked hard to court women applicants, and those efforts seem to be paying off. Fifty-one percent of two-year, full-time M.B.A. programs reported an increase in the number of female applicants, according to GMAC.
Many top schools, including Booth, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, increased the share of women in their entering M.B.A. classes, and several schools now boast M.B.A. classes that are more than 40% women.
International applicants, a crucial growth market for U.S. business schools over the last decade, may be slowing. While 51% of two-year, full-time M.B.A. programs said they attracted more admission bids from global students year-over-year, that is down from last year, when 65% of programs reported such increases, according to GMAC.
At several top programs—including Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Booth, Sloan and Marshall—the proportion of international full-time M.B.A.s is shrinking.
“The change in international students was intentional,” said a spokeswoman for McDonough, which dropped its share of international students in its entering class from 41% last year to 33% this year.
“We decided to ‘right-size’ our international percentage to make our international students more competitive for recruiting, given the [limited] availability of work visas in the U.S.,” she said.